FARNBOROUGH has almost certainly lost out to Camberley in the race to build a multiplex cinema.

Until recently the Hampshire town appeared to be in pole position after council planners gave the go-ahead for a nine-screen cinema.

But the operator who was poised to run the town centre multiplex has had second thoughts about signing on the dotted line.

Rushmoor councillors were told in a report the change-of-heart was due to the revival of plans to build an eight-screen cinema at Camberley.

"It appears most unlikely that the development of a cinema in Farnborough town centre will take place," the report added.

The 1,600-seat cinema, plus bars and a fitness suite, would have been a landmark building in the shopping centre's multi-million pound redevelopment.

Now St Modwen Properties plc, the developer contracted to reshape the 1960s centre, is exploring other ideas for the Queensmead site.

Spokesman Simon Rutter said on Monday: "We are reviewing alternative options for the land. I can't say any more at present."

He added that there was a slim hope that a cinema would still be built at Farnborough.

"The operator won't make a final decision until it is crystal clear what is happening at Camberley," he added.

John Silvester, Surrey Heath Council planning chief, confirmed on Monday that an eight-screen cinema forms part of the latest blueprint for the town's Park Street development.

Also included in the proposed complex is a 10-pin bowling centre with 28 alleys, eight cafes and bars, and a health and fitness club.

"We understand from the cinema operator that they are very keen to come into the Blackwater Valley area, and they are very positive about Camberley," added Mr Sylvester. Currently the council hopes that building work will start in a year's time and be completed by October 2005.